Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Waste of money"

On Sunday at church, following the worship service, we had a brief financial planning presentation. I'm sure it was to make people think about their expenditures, budgets, savings, etc., going into a new year. It was presented by two retired gentlemen who are members of our congregation. Both had very successful careers (one an accountant / small business owner, the other an insurance guy).

The insurance guy asked, "What's the biggest waste of money - no, second biggest waste of money - that most people spend money on?

A few guesses from people in the audience.

The answer - "Your car." ("The first biggest waste of money is your second car.")

Wow! You'd a-thunk I wrote the script! (Haha!)

This fella doesn't hate cars - in fact, he said he and his wife are finally down to two cars for two licensed drivers. He was just making the point that cars are a major and unending source of expenses. And perhaps our society is so car-centric that a large percentage feel they just couldn't survive without one.

I don't hate cars, either. In fact, I love some cars. For 20 or 25 years of my life, beginning around age 10, I was obsessed with cars. I'd get kicked out of class for drawing pictures of cars rather than paying attention. When I was 18, a buddy and I visited the Harrah car collection in Reno... I was shooed away from a row of brand-new Ferrari 375GTB Daytona sports cars, by a couple of burly security guys. I was sitting in one, behind the wheel. (Harrah was also the west coast Ferrari importer.) I've owned a few really nice cars, mostly earlier in life, including a '73 BMW 2002, an El Camino, a '72 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser. (Golly! I wish I still had 'em!) I like to watch Formula 1 Ferrari onboard camera videos on YouTube. (Try it! Amazing!)

But at this point in my life, I'm so very happy that the wife and I make do with one car between us, and that I am able to bicycle (and occasionally motorcycle) for my transportation. That saves A BUNDLE on car payments, insurance, fuel, maintenance. It gives me a bit of wiggle-room in a middle-income family budget that would otherwise be stretched tight like an overinflated balloon.

(If I were to buy another car, it would be something eminently practical - a Camry, or Accord, or maybe a Honda Element or small pickup. And almost certainly used - I'm not willing to pay the 25% premium for brand-new. I'm also amazed that some people willingly cough up another $300 or $500 or $800 a month for prestige/image, or "big" that will rarely be useful.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Big City / Little City Biking

First, little city. (Boise is still on the "little" side, I maintain.) There is a story on the Statesman website about the bike sharing program that is launching in 2014, if the honchos have their way. I've commented before, most recently in September.

Really, there's not anything new to report. The annual pass remains at $75 (providing unlimited use, in 30-minute increments). Weekly and daily passes will also be available. The 14 stations scattered across town will cost $20k-30k each to install. The bikes will probably be "3 speed cruisers." If you lose one while you have it checked out, you'll probably have to cough up $1200 to replace it. (Sweeeeet cruiser, huh?!!)

I like the concept of bike share! And it really makes sense in densely-populated cities with lots of tourists and downtown apartment dwellers. The demographics are a little different in Boise - not a huge tourist trade, and relatively few urban apartment dwellers (where space is at a premium and a "shared" bike would therefore be more attractive). But it could very well be successful here, if you measure success in usage.

If you measure "successful" by the program being self-sustaining, it's less likely. Most or all bike share programs are subsidized, either by the government or private industry. (Driving a car or riding a city bus are also subsidized.) My only misgivings about the Boise Bike Share are the government subsidies. As a fiscal conservative, I question the expenditure of public dollars for yet another new program, when we're already so deeply in debt. As one commenter on the Statesman website said, "The amount of money for bike share programs is dwarfed by corporate subsidies. Bike share gets a crumb or two while corporate interests get their own cake." That is true... but a million bike shares, pathways, bridge rebuilds, highway projects, etc., etc., and suddenly you have multiple cakes' worth of crumbs!

Get some deep-pockets local private enterprise - Zions Bank, US Bank, Micron, Gardener Company, Albertsons - to sponsor it, and I'm all in!

Now, Big City. Chicago has seen a major uptick in the number of bicycle commuters. As bike lanes have expanded, and they've kicked off their own bike share (second in scope only to New York, in USA programs), gas keeps getting more expensive, more people have taken to their two-wheelers.

Bike lanes, and maintenance of bike lanes (including winter maintenance) aren't free. And a city councilman recently suggested a $25/year cycling tax to offset those expenses. Story HERE. Some - the anti-bike people - spoke up in favor. Others mocked the idea. "Maybe pedestrians ought to be charged a shoe tax to use the sidewalks." There are other questions - how is it enforced? being a major one.

I can see both sides. As a libertarian/conservative, I'm totally in favor of the actual beneficiaries of the facility, whatever it happens to be, footing the bill. And I'm happy to pay my fair share. But what is it?

Everybody benefits when people choose bike transportation, in the sense that the roadways become incrementally less congested, and air quality incrementally improves. And even if I don't own a car, I benefit from having the roads, so the UPS guy can bring stuff to me, and the garbage man can take stuff away.

But should the person who rides 50 miles a year, pay the same "tax" as the person who rides 5000 miles a year? And how much wear-and-tear does a bicycle inflict on the infrastructure, compared with a Prius or a Peterbilt? It's very difficult to make any sort of objective assessment. (Even a per-gallon fuel tax is "rigged," because miles per gallon doesn't always equate to wear-and-tear, need for infrastructure, etc.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Apologies for not posting more frequently as of late. I s'pose it's mostly "winter business as usual," and lots of other irons in the fire.

White stuff fell upon our fair community the weekend of December 14. Since then it's mostly been below freezing, but the snow receded significantly despite. Then yesterday (12/20) starting around afternoon drive time, snow once again fell. Currently we've got a blanket of 3 inches or so. So far, I've put some miles on the bike every day.

Temperatures have ranged from -6 (brrr!) to mid-30s. With layers, I can get relatively comfortable from the mid-teens on up. Icy roads are another matter; I'm not uncomfortable on them unless I'm being tailgated by an impatient motorist. And if I stick to the side-streets, sharing the road is rarely a problem.

Slippery-wise, I've fared well... not even any close calls. No studded tires, or even particularly wide tires. I can only attribute it to the experience gained over 27 or so winters of riding. I think I've mostly mastered the physics of the thing... I can avoid introducing any extraneous forces, as I roll over the particularly slippery stretches. The worst conditions are "frozen slush" - it makes you bounce all over the place, and threatens even your tiny contact patches. But so far at least, not too much frozen slush to deal with.

(I've written about dealing with the "winter trifecta" - dark, cold, and slippery before. HERE.)

People see me arrive at the office and say, "You're crazy!" It's a matter of perspective. From my seat, it seems crazier to live clear out in the boondocks, so you have to drive to go anywhere - and so you drive on the terrible days and the gorgeous days.

The scenery is beautiful, when it's blanketed with snow. I share some photos (including a fashionable "selfie") I've snapped over the last week or 10 days.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Why you should never bike to work

A fella named Brendan Leonard has written a witty column... read it HERE.

Mostly he's poking fun at the lame excuses that are often heard, for why people don't.


9. It's too dangerous.
"The absolute best thing is to stay in... your car, because no one's ever been killed when they're inside an automobile."

8. You have to wear a tie to work. Or a suit. Or a skirt.

7. You have to go to the gym after/before work.

6. You can't show up all sweaty and smelly for your job.
"Your co-workers will be all, 'Bob, what the hell did you do, bike to work today? It smells like somebody's gutting a week-old deer carcass in your cubicle.'"

5. You don't have the right bike for it.
"The only bike you own are your Trek Madone, and your single-speed 29er, neither of which will work. You'd have to go out and buy a dedicated commuting bike..."

4. You can't be wearing a bike helmet and messing up your hair before work.

3. The route from your home to your office would be suicide on a bike.

2. What if it rains?
"Thanks to umbrellas, sprinting from your car to your office, and sometimes holding a newspaper above your head, you haven't gotten wet outside of your shower since 2007."

1. You would have to change your routine.
"Please. Give up your 45-minute drive into work, the drive that energizes you for the day ahead? Give up interacting with all those other fun, friendly, courteous drivers on the freeway? Sitting in traffic? Road construction? Merging? Not a chance."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Used-up tire

Now and then, somebody asks me, "When do you switch out an old tire?"

When the part that touches the road isn't black any more, that's my indicator.  Actually, I noticed a few little red blotches a couple weekends ago when I cleaned up the drivetrain, and I've been riding on good luck since.

This tire gave me fantastic service - between May and today, it rolled over 3482 miles - with zero flats!  Sah-WEEET!  I'm totally sold on Vittoria Randonneurs!  (A slightly wider, and significantly better-treaded tire went on, for the winter months.  That's good, because there's 2 or 3 inches of snow on the ground out there.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bicycles don't belong, because they don't pay their way?

It's the age-old, constantly-debated question, and a weapon of choice for motorists who resent cyclists on the road. "If they want to be on the roads, they should be paying registration"... have to buy insurance, etc. Cyclists aren't paying their fair share, goes the reasoning.

I saw THIS ARTICLE recently: "Drivers get Rolled," by Christopher Caldwell. It is well-written and somewhat sympathetic to cyclists, but Caldwell contends that motorists are picking up the tab. He feels cyclists are getting more than they deserve, when they get to share lane-space with cars. His bludgeon is number-of-drivers, compared with number-of-cyclists.

"According to the U.S. census, 120 million people drive to work every weekday, and 750,000 bike. In other words, there are 160 drivers for every biker. Bike use is growing—but even at 40 times the present level it would still not be sensible public policy to squander a quarter, a third, or half of the lane space on a busy rush-hour artery for a bike lane."

Interesting and valid point, and on its own, it might be an argument for banning bicycles from roads, at least those roads that don't have adequate bike lanes.

But it seems strangely at odds with this, from the same article: "The problem is that our transportation network, built at the cost of trillions over the decades, is already over capacity... It is not so easily rejiggered. Unquestionably we have misbuilt our transport grid. It makes us car-dependent. It should better accommodate bikers and walkers. But for now it can’t."

So - he really offers no solution to the problem of overcrowded roads and bike riders, but his point seems to be that bikes impede car traffic, so they don't belong. And that must change at the expense of the cyclists who will use the facilities, or it's not fair to the motorists.

There are some other "cues" that seem to explain his viewpoint:
1) He begins with a story about a large group of recreational cyclists taking over the highway in rural New Hampshire.
2) He seems to think that cyclists are mostly affluent and upper-class. (Which may be somewhat true for recreational/sport cyclists, but certainly not for transportation cyclists! Look around, Mr. Caldwell! Lots of people ride a bike because they can't afford a car!)

Frankly, I share his resentment toward weekend-warrior bike riders who, en masse, make driving frustrating for motorists. Almost without fail, the motorists who resent cyclists recount stories of such groups and their lawlessness and lack of courtesy. (If you think I'm wrong, you're not paying attention.)

Mr. Caldwell uses numbers-on-the-roads, but overlooks the source of revenue for road building and maintenance. (Which most motorists seem to believe comes exclusively from license plates and gas tax.) I know it varies by jurisdiction, but in most places roads are supported via income tax, property tax, etc., as well as those "user fees." In our community (ACHD), property taxes are a bigger slice of the revenue pie than anything else - substantially more than the "highway users fund" (gas tax and registration).

Here's yet another way to look at how money might be allocated for road projects. Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon - who is easily the most "pro-bicycle" elected official in D.C. - points to this disturbing statistic... cyclists and pedestrians account for 15 percent of all highway deaths, but only get 1 percent of safety-related highway funding. (Article HERE.) I s'pose if they were banned from the roads, they wouldn't get killed so much. Is that the direction we want to go as a society?

The Oregon Bicycle Transportation Alliance has recently begun a new "Who pays for our roads?" awareness campaign that has already been called into question, but they make the contention, among others, that it would take 9600 bicycles to damage the roadways as much as one car. (Chart HERE.) Pretty much any position can be defended with "facts and figures." As Mark Twain is alleged to have said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Mr. Caldwell's beef seems to be with a cyclist - particularly a recreational cyclist - who is exclusively occupying a motor-vehicle lane, and indeed that's an unfortunate reality, when a bike lane or breakdown lane isn't available.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Greenbelt to Eagle Status Report

I'd not ridden downstream on the Greenbelt for awhile, so when a beautiful Saturday came along, I decided a survey was in order.

In mid-September, Eagle city officials ordered some clearing action, and moving the pathway in a couple places where it infringed on private property; story HERE. And then later in the month, the Army Corps of Engineers threw a new bureaucratic wrench in the cogs, declaring that they hadn't authorized a the pathway through designated wetlands; story HERE. (It's always something, isn't it?) I wanted to see for myself if it was currently passable.

As expected, even though most of the autumn leaves are gone, the scenery was lovely. And the pathway was pretty decent, as well. People on their 22mm skinny tires might find a couple of uncomfortable stretches, since the last couple miles are dirt of varying quality. But my 28mm tires did fine. I wouldn't hesitate to take my 6-year-old granddaughter for a ride, from one end to the other.

Hopefully the photos below are an accurate representation of what you might expect, if you ventured that way.

There used to be a bona-fide bridge over the canal. It collapsed under somewhat mysterious circumstances a few months back. The debris has been cleared away. As of Saturday, there's a beam spanning the canal, roughly the width of a railroad tie. So, drunk people, especially those with bad balance, should avoid it. I didn't ride across, but I didn't feel uncomfortable at all carrying my bike... and while I was paused there to snap a photo, another fella came along in the other direction on his skinny-tire bike. He carried his over, as well.

In a way, the current state of the pathway is probably a good thing... if it were glass-smooth asphalt from end to end, with a nice, safe bridge, it would probably be more crowded on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. (I saw maybe 3 other cyclists, a couple pedestrians, and a few fishermen.) But I can't be greedy, or think I should have such a beautiful resource all to my self.

Clancy has mentioned his dream in the past... punch it all the way through to Eagle Island State Park (another couple miles downstream), and then allow bike-adventurers to ride down there and camp overnight, and then ride home the next morning. That would be a fantastic family outing! Clancy, you have my vote for governor, if you ever decide to run!









Monday, November 4, 2013

Do you live in a happy city?

I happened across an article, "The secrets of the world's happiest cities." (Guardian, UK)

Intriguing! I scanned it - when Provo, Utah wasn't listed by name, I just about dismissed it outright.

(That's a joke! Provo, home of BYU, is located in a place the locals call "Happy Valley." But despite my occasional visits there, it's never struck me as happier than any other small city. I'd rather live in Boise.)

What would make a city "happy"? Prosperity / lack of crippling poverty? Health? Lots of bowling alleys and bars? A sweeeet mall?

According to the article, the common denominator of the happiest cities has nothing to do with the wealth of its inhabitants, or lots of name-brand shopping, or even its super-smart politicians. Rather, it is based on an urban design that minimizes auto-dependence and maximizes opportunities for its citizens to enjoy the outdoors and "connect with others."

It describes the transformation of an unlikely city - Bogota, Colombia, "a city with a reputation for kidnapping and assassination." The author followed the reform-minded mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, as he rode his bike partway across town to meet his son after school and accompany him home. Mayor Peñalosa raised eyebrows when he "declared war on cars," scrapping an ambitious roadway expansion plan and directing the funds toward expanding bike infrastructure, making open spaces more user-friendly with sidewalks, parks, etc. But he hasn't been thrown out of office, and his citizens seem happy with the evolution. (Maybe TOO happy - at the end of the story it says the facilities are stretched to the breaking point because of their popularity, but funding hasn't kept up with demand.)

Some interesting and provocative quotes from the story:

"If one was to judge by sheer wealth, the last half-century should have been an ecstatically happy time for people in the US and other rich nations such as Canada, Japan and Great Britain. And yet the boom decades of the late 20th century were not accompanied by a boom in wellbeing. The British got richer by more than 40% between 1993 and 2012, but the rate of psychiatric disorders and neuroses grew."

"The more connected we are to family and community, the less likely we are to experience heart attacks, strokes, cancer and depression. Connected people sleep better at night. They live longer. They consistently report being happier."

"A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a 45-minute commute were 40% more likely to divorce. People who live in monofunctional, car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work."

Two Zurich economists "found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. On the other hand, for a single person, exchanging a long commute for a short walk to work has the same effect on happiness as finding a new love."

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist: "Most good and bad things become less good and bad over time as we adapt to them. However, it is much easier to adapt to things that stay constant than to things that change. So we adapt quickly to the joy of a larger house, because the house is exactly the same size every time. But we find it difficult to adapt to commuting by car, because every day is a slightly new form of misery."

Speaking for myself - I dislike a 30-minute driving errand, on account of sitting in traffic, etc. (Granted, I'm not used to that treatment.) I'd probably become homicidal if I had to do a 45-minutes-each-way, 5-day-a-week car commute! Homicidal is unhappy... right?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trends in automotive high-tech

I remember a few years back, seeing an aftermarket in-dash DVD player, and thinking what an insane idea that was. What the?!!? Drivers watching movies, instead of the road? But for several years now, cars have been available from the factory, with big, colorful screens built into the dashboard or center console, where the driver can use navigation (GPS receiver), communication, climate control, etc.

Wonderful! But, as a cyclist I worry about drivers that are staring at that big colorful screen, when maybe they should be looking at the road ... ?

And now, there are car commercials on the teevee, showing some high-end models, with technology that supposedly intervenes and automatically applies the brakes to prevent collisions.

Maybe I'm just Mr. Paranoid, but I worry that motorists will rationalize that since their car will prevent accidents, they don't have to pay quite so much attention. I don't think my concern is unfounded - after all, in 2011, 3,331 people were killed iun crashes involving a distracted driver, and 387,000 people were injured. (Source: Distraction.gov).

But maybe there's some technology that could affect driving in a positive way. According to the UK DailyMail, a gizmo placed on the driver's head has 14 sensors that detect brain activity. "The headset can tell whether a driver’s attention goes from the road to the radio, when their neural activity dips, or when their blink rate slows significantly. A gyroscope in the headset can also detect when a driver significantly turned their head away from the road."

Interesting concept, somewhat similar to a device that DUI offenders have to blow into, to start the car.

One comment is amusing: "It monitors the Sheila ogling cortex to determine if they're distracted."

Yeah, that too!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How safe is cycling?

That is the question posed in a column by Gina Kolata on the NY Times website. Experienced cyclists weigh in... some say crashes are inevitable; others feel they can be mostly avoided. (Thanks to fellow cyclist Ellen for bringing the column to my attention.)

Dr. Harold Schwartz thinks you will have an accident. But the accident he had, that cemented his opinion, was when "his bike slid out of control while he was going 35 miles an hour downhill around a sharp turn."

I say Dr. Schwartz could've avoided that accident. I'm in the "99% of crashes can be avoided" camp, for sure. And the article only reinforced my feelings.

Consider (according to the article):

San Francisco General Hospital treated 2504 cyclists for serious accident injuries - nearly half didn't involve a car. They were single-vehicle (bicycle) accidents. Couldn't most of those accidents be avoided?

My firm belief is that if you ride legally, visibly, predictably and defensively, you can avoid most accidents.

How do some cyclists expose themselves to an increased likelihood of injury accident?

Some are either unaware of, or willfully break, traffic laws. They ride against traffic (illegal). They "blow through stop lights and stop signs" (illegal in many cases, even in Idaho). They ride at night without adequate lighting (illegal). They ride without hands on handlebars (illegal).

Some ride "invisibly." There's the night-light thing. They wear dark clothes that blend in with the background. They ride on the sidewalk, or in the gutter pan, where they are much more difficult to spot.

Some ride unpredictably. They zig-zag through traffic, squirrel-like. They ride on the sidewalk, except when they decide not to. And - illegal cyclists by definition are unpredictable. Since they're not following traffic laws, you can't expect them to do what's legal.

Some ride as though they think they have an invisible force-field protecting them! Or that they are sharing the road with nothing but expert and totally-attentive drivers! They are oblivious to their surroundings. They ride with sound-blocking earplugs and over-the-ear headphones to listen to their righteous tunes. They ride on slippery surfaces without exercising a proper amount of caution. Road hazards take them by surprise.

Fellow cyclists! Motorists do stupid stuff all the time! And if they involve you in their stupid stuff, YOU are likely to end up the injured or dead party! Are you good with that? If not, you better ride defensively, and be ready to get yourself out of a tight fix wherever possible. When you ride down the road with your tunes in your ears and your hands in your pockets (or holding your electronic music gizmo)... you might as well paint a target on your back, too!

(Yeah, cyclists do stupid stuff all the time, too... but generally they're just endangering themselves. Or at least aren't often killing or gravely injuring other roadway users.)

The one other caveat I might add, in the context of all types of bicycling (not just transportation) - when you tempt the laws of physics (gravity, inertia, friction, etc.), you are also increasing your likelihood of having an injury accident. Dr. Schwartz's crash, mentioned above, is a case in point. If you don't compensate for slippery surfaces, sloping surfaces, etc. ... good luck with that.

The article never really declares that cycling is safe, or unsafe. I assert that it can be pretty darn safe, if you're not tempting fate or pushing your luck.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

If you were a bug...

We recently enjoyed an idyllic week on the Oregon coast, with both activity and relaxation. My granddaughter Mackenzie seems destined to be some sort of critter wrangler - unlike many 6-year-old girls, she loves bugs, snakes, toads, salamanders, etc. Except for spiders. I believe certain adults - the ones who stand on chairs - have brainwashed her into being afraid of spiders.

She even built a "bug hospital" outside the house we were staying in - complete with leaf beds and pebble pillows.

During our visit to Shore Acres State Park (beautiful!), we saw lots of honeybees and bumblebees, busily moving from blossom to blossom.

We observed "wooly bear" caterpillars. (If the Wikipedia is to be believed, they hatch around this time of year, and then literally freeze over the winter in their caterpillar/larva state, and thaw in the springtime. Amazing!) When I was cycling, I saw literally hundreds of 'em on the roadway. I wish I could report that they were displaying some uncanny migratory instinct or traveling to a mutual destination, but 360 bugs were creeping in 360 different directions.

One of her favorite and routine finds was big, slimy, slow-moving banana slugs. We don't have anything like that in Boise, but they thrive in the humid and temperate coastal area. She
asked me, "What are slugs good for?" You know, in comparison with bees that pollinate our fruits and flowers, and ants that are famously industrious. I couldn't give her an answer.

(An interpretive sign in the redwoods area said banana slugs eat all vegetation in their path - except for redwood sprouts.)

Since then, I've thought about bugs and people. (Bike riding affords time for unproductive thinking about a wide variety of subjects.) And I've come up with a philosophical question, right out of the Barbara Walters Interview Manual:

"If you were a bug, what kind of bug would you be?"

Mackenzie would be a chipmunk. (Chipmunks are bugs... right? haha)

Many people these days are banana slugs, at least in their mobility habits. We've become a sedentary ease-seeking society. If it weren't for bicycling, I'd probably be a banana slug. But I'm probably a bumblebee - not very fast, no obvious usefulness, and looking at me, you'd guess that flight is improbable, even if you see me flying.

Zombies on Bikes!

The festivity-minded folks in Key West, Florida, have a pretty cool Halloween-time tradition - a Zombie Bike Ride. (All zombies can lurch about, but I'm guessing only the more graceful and balanced zombies can propel a bike forward.)

All of these people dressed for the occasion! Except for the smart-phone zombie girl in the foreground. Or at least I know I see smart-phone zombies lurching about every day... mostly on foot but sometimes on a bike.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Change of scenery

Wish you were here!

I'm away from Boise for a few days with family... visiting the southern Oregon coast.  For the first time ever, I bought a back-of-car bike carrier, so I could bring the beloved steed along.

(The rack is an Allen Sports receiver-mounted rack; $70 at amazon.com.  I'm very impressed by the engineering, build quality, and functionality.)

We're staying in a house a few miles south of Coos Bay, and I've enjoyed the riding on Oregon Highway 42, US Highway 101, and a local gem, the North Bank Road that ends up in Bandon.  The weather has been "Chamber of Commerce" - high 60s and lots of sunshine.

Earlier today, I did a 37-mile loop including all three above-mentioned roads... nice!  There was a somewhat daunting 2-mile steady uphill on US101 (they seem so much shorter in the car!), and a steep-grade downhill on Beaver Hill Road.  I was applying as much brake as I dared, and wondering if they would hold... and still hit 39+ mph.  (And was glad I was riding down, instead of up!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Boise bicycle fatalities

Sadly, we've had a couple of bike-car collisions that have resulted in fatal injuries.

In the wee hours of September 26, cyclist Victor Haskell, 58, was struck as he rode on State Street near 30th street. The driver who hit him, Gavin Bradford Haley, fled the scene, but turned himself in the next day.

Since it was dark at the time, my first assumption was that Mr. Haskell may not have had adequate/legal lighting and reflectors, but the police reported that he had working lights at both ends of his bicycle. And Mr. Haley was driving home from a bar, and has a significant criminal record including DUI offenses. So now the obvious assumption is that driver impairment was at least a contributing factor.

Friends of Mr. Haskell described him as a "delightful man," and as an experienced transportation cyclist.

And then on the afternoon of October 7, cyclist James Kelly, 56, was riding on Federal Way when he was struck by a motorist in an SUV, who was turning eastbound onto Federal Way from the Broadway ramp. He had a baby trailer behind him, but (thank goodness!) it was filled with groceries, and not babies.

That incident is still under investigation, but it's obvious that one of the parties failed to yield. The intersection has a traffic signal (light).

What can be done to prevent such incidents?

Well, first of all, there's a risk inherent in bicycling. (And taking a bath, and getting out of bed in the morning.) The only way to avoid getting injured or killed when riding a bicycle is to avoid a crash. Let's review how to minimize the likelihood of a crash:

BE LEGAL! Know the traffic laws that apply to you, and follow them.

BE VISIBLE! Bob T. has made a convert out of me - you cannot be too visible! Go overboard with bright and hi-viz attire, lights, reflective material, whatever. Day and night, but particularly when visibility is compromised by poor ambient light.

BE PREDICTABLE! Be in a position on the road where people expect you to be (legal), don't make sudden direction changes, signal your intentions.

BE DEFENSIVE! Do everything right... and expect everybody else to do everything wrong. If there's an occupied vehicle, another cyclist, or even a pedestrian, nearby... expect 'em to do something crazy/stupid, and be ready to react.

NOTE! Even if you do everything right, you cannot totally eliminate the possibility of a mishap. They happen. But you can greatly reduce the chances, by adhering to safe cycling practices. (And riding more often probably improves your chances rather than reducing them, because of the experience you gain along the way.)

Condolences to the families and friends of the deceased cyclists. May we honor their memories by making our roads safer.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rolling out Boise Bike Share

I happened across a news story reporting that Dave Fotsch has been named the first director of the Boise Bike Share project. And it, in turn, points at the Boise Bike Share website.

Gosh! I must've gone to sleep under a rock! Last I heard, it was in the "study stage." I had no idea that it was ready to roll forward, but they intend to have it up and running sometime in the spring or summer of next year. It will be operated by Valley Regional Transit - the same people who run the city buses and the vanpool program.

The initial rollout will be 70 bikes at 7 strategically-located stations; those numbers will double as the program expands to envisioned capacity. Memberships - required to use the bikes for 30-minute intervals - will range from $5 for a daily pass to $75 for a year.

Does Boise have the population base to support such an endeavor? I guess we're going to find out. New York City's new "Citibike" has been wildly successful; similar bike-shares in other cities not quite so much, at least in participation and keeping the bikes rolling.

Most successful bike-sharing cities have large populations of apartment dwellers and other "urbanites" for whom owning and storing a bike can be much more complicated than for us suburban-types who have garages, etc. And large numbers of tourists, who would be the primary customers for the daily and weekly membership options.

For me, the main downside is the cost; estimated to be $650K for the rollout, or $4600 per bike. And if corporate sponsorships were paying for it, as in NYC, I'd have no bones to pick. But in Boise's case, the deep-pocket taxpayers will be picking up the tab for the startup. (According to the website, the money will come from "federal transportation alternatives dollars" and federal Surface Transportation Program.)

Um - we're broke! Just in case you haven't been paying attention, the government is poised to shut down for lack of funds. We (the citizens of the U.S.A.) are in debt almost $17 trillion! If we were flush with surplus funds, a bike share would probably be an awesome expenditure, but not when we're bankrupt. (I liken our debt ceiling to a family with a maxed-out credit card and barely able to make the minimum payment each month. So they call the bank and ask to have their credit limit raised $5000... it's approved, and to celebrate they buy new furniture! The problem has NOT been solved!)

(Sorry to be Mister Buzz-kill... but we're in our current horrible fiscal situation because NOBODY wants to be Mister Buzz-kill, least of all our esteemed "public servants"!)

(Previous commentary: HERE and HERE.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Banks to Lowman Ride

On Labor Day, I went motorcycling with some friends; we did the Boise to Banks to Lowman to Boise loop.  And it put me to wanting to do part of the same ride on the bicycle.  My friend "Woody" told me several years ago that Banks-to-Lowman it was his favorite bike ride; I tried it a couple years ago and wrote about it HERE.

It was great to return... during a week of vacation, I took a day (Thursday 9/19) and did the same ride.  My wife is quite kind to loan me the Wagon Queen Family Truckster now and then, so I can stage such an adventure.

It started out almost cold, and breezy.  In fact, at the first stop I would've been riding immediately uphill and into a stiff headwind, so I drove up the road a couple more miles before getting underway.  It made a big difference.

I rode 31+ miles each way.

The ride to Lowman was lovely in every way.  As I recalled from last time, there's not really much commerce in Lowman, so it can be a challenge to find water.  But there's a highway maintenance shed there; I approached it and found the door open.  Far as I can tell, nobody was there at the time, but there was tap water.  I drunk deeply and refilled my bottles.

The first half of the ride back was almost as lovely.  Then I started feeling the distance - when 90% of your riding is 20 miles or less, I'm sure it helps considerably on a 60-mile jaunt, but just the same, by the end I was feeling like a tired old man.  I was happy to see the Family Truckster come into view up ahead.






Friday, September 13, 2013

Eagle - light at the end of the bike path?

There's a very encouraging story on the Idaho Statesman website... the Greenbelt on the south side of the river might be "officially" complete all the way to Eagle Road, before the weather turns cold.

"City officials have directed its parks director to get a 1-mile stretch of Greenbelt near the Laguna Pointe subdivision cleared of weeds and other obstructions so that it can be safely used by walkers and bicyclists. Work will begin Monday, and it's expected to be finished by the end of September."

Great news! And my hat is off to the city officials in Eagle. It was obvious that the Laguna Pointe folks were using the Riverside Village playbook, hoping to win the battle through attrition and discouragement. But apparently the town fathers recognize that they answer to all the citizens/voters, not just a few well-heeled elitists who yap the loudest.

Previous commentary (in chronological order):
May 26, 2012
Feb 25, 2013
Mar 20, 2013
Apr 24, 2013

Suicide Knob

I sing in the choir at church. (Well - I emit noise, anyway. It's not a choir that requires an audition, and my daughter is the director, so I'm in!)

And last Sunday, our excellent accompanist commented on the long stretch between the bass note and the tenor note... it was well over an octave, and she told us, "You tenors, I might have to sacrifice your note if I can't play both." A notorious smart-alek, Mark, piped up, "Can't you play one of the notes with your nose??"

I've been thinking about that.

Some of you old-timers might remember "suicide knobs" from the good old days. Back before power steering and automatic transmissions were widespread, a popular after-market accessory was a small rotating knob, which you could bolt to your car's steering wheel. It allowed easier one-handed steering, leaving the other hand free for alternate duties. They were sometimes called a "necker knob," or a "Brodie knob" after an actor/daredevil from yesteryear.

According to the Wikipedia, they were particularly popular among hot rodders on the West Coast, because they facilitated doing stunts, spinouts, etc.

My dad had one on his car - I remember it well, because it was beautiful two-tone white and translucent emerald green. And back in those days, kids could sit in the front seat.

They're still available - just do a web search for "suicide knob."

And to my way of thinking, they'd be more useful now than ever!

In fact - thinking back on choir practice, I'd suggest a modified design, with a cup shape and a soft, padded surface - perhaps Naugahyde, or fine Corinthian leather. My design would be particularly handy for folks with a manual transmission, or with a bench seat and your honey sitting close.

You could mount it at the twelve-o'clock position on your steering wheel.

Then, when you have your cell phone in your left hand, your coffee cradled between your knees (thus making it hard to steer with your legs), and need to operate the gearshift with your right hand (or have it wrapped around your babe), or you need both hands for your texting responsibilities, you could lean forward, inserting your nose in the suicide knob, and engage in rhinosteerage.

Why hasn't somebody thought of this before?!! It should be standard equipment on any car with a manual transmission, in these attention-deficit times. Frequently I see people who just have to trust the direction of their vehicle to luck, because they are out of appendages.

Cyclist vs. Actress

In a horrifying incident that is sure to set back relations between cyclists and the general public, a paparazzo-punk on a bike knocked actress Nicole Kidman off her feet, as she left a NYC fashion show.

Story HERE.

Apparently both an ambulance and fire truck were dispatched, just in case, but the lovely Ms. Kidman seems no worse for the wear, other than the mental anguish. The cops say they're going to write the punk up for riding on the sidewalk, but strangely there's not a specific "Assault on a Celebrity" statute.

Lucky for the rider that he ran into the actress, rather than that sturdy-looking bodyguard dude. If it had happened in a back alley rather than a busy street with lots of witnesses, he might have ended up wearing that bicycle home wrapped around his neck, or eating it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Driving in America has stalled."

According to this article by AP writer Joan Lowy, total [motor] vehicle use peaked in America in August, 2007. It dropped off sharply, no doubt due to the recession and the ever-escalating cost of fuel. It has rebounded somewhat since, but has now leveled off.


The experts cite several contributors:
- The percentage of young people who get driver's licenses has dropped off, suggesting that driving isn't as important as it has been in the past
- Ongoing uncertainty about the economy
- Gas prices
- Traffic, lack of parking spaces, etc., has soured people. "Getting into a car no longer correlates with fun."
- Cars are no longer a "fetish of masculinity" for many in our society
- Changing lifestyles - more shopping online, public transit is more popular in many areas, as are walking and cycling
- The population is aging, and the huge "baby boom bubble" drives less as they retire, etc.
- Unemployment - Young people in particular are having a hard time getting and holding a job that will support a car

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Historic flat tire

I got a flat today! D'oh! It was a goathead (of course!), and in a twist of cruel irony, I'm pretty sure I "acquired" it right behind the ACHD equipment yard. I've been noticing a prolific growth of goatheads along there (like pretty much every place right now), and today it looked as though somebody had been trying to deal with them, and in the process a few got scattered about on the bike path.

It's "historic," because it's only my second flat tire of the calendar year. And for years and years, I averaged 2 or 3 such flats a month, and have dealt with three in a day (!) a couple times. But since I discovered my new favorite tire, Vittoria Randonneurs, dealing with flats is pretty much a thing of the past.

Amazingly, there are a couple of "down sides" to not getting flats very often.

I pulled up to do repairs. And apparently, fixing flats is kinda like... uh... um... riding a bike! Once you learn, you never forget.

I quickly had the tube removed and the offending goathead removed, and the hole identified and the rubber "roughed up" with sandpaper. Then I went to apply some glue. From a never-opened tube. D'oh! The glue was dried up! I guess that's what happens after a couple years, even if you don't use any.

Not to worry! I pulled out my spare inner tube, which I also always carry. Put the compromised one around my neck and the spare inside the tire, and pumped it up, and started on my way. A mile or so up the road, I noticed it was getting low.

Fer cryin' out loud!

I took my place at the side of the path, and once again practiced my tube change-out skills. And I discovered - if a tube goes for many, many miles, folded up in an underseat bag... it tends to wear a hole wherever it's rubbing against something. And that was the case today.

Fortunately, I also had a couple peel-and-stick "emergency patches," and applied one, and limped on in to my destination. I'll fix the leaking spare tube, and maybe wrap it in an old sock or something to prevent it from getting rubbed raw. And I'll try to replenish my patching supplies.

On the bright side, I got a glimpse of the good side of humanity. Three or four people were passing by, and asked if I had everything under control. It's nice to witness compassion and empathy up close from time to time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Perfectly good rides - SPOILED!

Yesterday at the end of my 8 hours of toil, I stood up and peeked out of my cube. The sky was dark! What the?!!

I headed for the bike locker; the sky was ominous, and I could see rain coming down in the not-too-distant distance. The wind was gusty. Oh well - I'd already been wet twice since morning. (Both times in the shower.) I forged ahead. Made it maybe 1/2 mile before the rain started falling.

I took refuge under a bridge for a couple minutes and called home with the cell phone. No answer; I left a message - "PLEASE put the extenders on our rain gutter downspouts!" (Sometimes when it rains hard, we'll get a little water in the basement if we don't move the roof-water a little farther out on the lawn. Turns out nobody answered because everybody in the household was out on the front porch, watching the thunderstorm.)

The rain let up a bit, and I rode on. The respite was short lived - as I rode over that same bridge, it was pouring rain and the side wind was pushing me. At least it was still warm. And my "fanny pack" is fairly water-resistant, to protect the contents.

At the end of my 20-minute bike ride, I was as wet as I'd been in the shower, and my clothes and shoes were equally wet. Oh, well - that's the occasional price to be paid when you ride a bike every day. I put the downspout extenders in place, and took refuge inside. By 45 minutes, the storm had blown through and the sun came out again. (My shoes were still squishy-wet this morning. I'm wearing another pair.)


This morning the outlook was much better. We had overnight rain, and the pavement was damp but not wet.

I headed for work, taking a route that is slightly longer but oh so much more pleasant, through Ann Morrison Park.

As I rode in one direction, I saw a couple approaching from the other direction. Nothing unusual there; happens all the time. But just as I got to them, suddenly the underbrush on the side parted, and their big dog came bounding out, right into my path! I braked hard and rode off the path; fortunately I didn't go down. (I'm too old to be slamming into the hard ground - that's a pastime for the young bucks.) As I rode away, I suggested they should put their dog on a leash.

The fella replied with that ever-persuasive "F*** you!!"

What the?! Hey, jackass - I'm not the problem - you are the problem.

I did a U-turn and rode to them and said, "There's a leash law - you are breaking the law, and if your dog causes me to crash, there will be a problem."

The woman pushed against me and said, "Please just go! My husband is a vet, and has P.T.S.D." And indeed he was making his buggy-eyed World Wrestling scary-face and acting as though he wanted a piece of me. (Oh, brother!)

The woman did tell him to put their dog on the leash. And I just went.

So much for the ever-pleasant ride through the park. I felt like telling the woman, "If you can't take your dog and your psycho husband out in public without endangering other citizens, maybe you better keep 'em home." I'd much rather deal with bad weather than big unpredictable animals - both canine and human.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One more Tour de Fat follow-up

According to the Boise Weekly, 6000 (!) people participated in the morning bike parade. That's a LOT of people and bikes! Perhaps the local mainstream media should do a better job of reporting on an event with so much local participation. Also, as Clancy commented, the most long-term fallout from the event was $55,000 collected for three local nonprofit bicycle organizations.

Well done, Fat Turistas!!

A couple other happy memories of the parade that I failed to mention earlier:

We're all familiar with the kind-hearted spectators who hold out cups of water for the contestants in big-time bicycle races, marathons, etc., right?

Well, early on, along the Tour de Fat course, a heart-of-gold lady had a little table set up, and as people rode by she was offering Ice Cream Cones!! Seriously! Holding a cone out at arm's length and inquiring, "Ice cream? Ice cream?" I asked Mackie if we should get some ice cream - she declined, being afraid that she might crash her bike if she was riding and licking her cone at the same time.

If I had it to do over, I would've told her to pull over. We could've leisurely eaten an ice cream cone, and then pulled back into the mob, a little farther back.

(Somehow it seemed SO APPROPRIATE that the "Tour de Fat" parade riders would get the opportunity for Ice Cream Relief!)

There were some security personnel on hand for the event, including some Boise motorcycle cops. (Although I've never seen a more content, well-behaved crowd of people, at least during the parade event!) In their motorcycle-cop fashion, some of them would block the side streets as the parade started through, and then race on ahead to the next intersection. Frankly, it made me a little nervous; a big, loose pack of bicycle riders is a little more free-flowing than a float rolling slowly down the middle of the road, or even a band marching to J. P. Sousa, in nice, straight lines.

Well, one of the cops - I happen to know the guy - was riding his big BMW motorcycle up the sidewalk, to get to the next intersection. A parader on a bike was on the sidewalk ahead of him. Certainly not trying to disrupt in any way... he just happened to be on the sidewalk. When he heard the motorcycle engine revving behind him, he cleared the way, and the cop zoomed on ahead... into an area of the sidewalk that was under repair. There were barriers, places where the sidewalk was buckled or missing altogether. By then, he was moving fast and all he could do was try to "ride it out." To everyone's horror/delight (can you feel both at the same time?!), he actually "caught some air" and did the motocross thing for a few feet, then came down with a crash! But he's obviously a skilled rider - he controlled everything and zoomed on up the sidewalk... leaving his big black Cop Flashlight twirling on the ground in his wake.

Paraders hollered, "Look! He lost his weapon!!" Somebody collected it - I got the impression they were riding ahead, hoping to catch up. I never saw how it ended, but it added to the excitement for everybody in the immediate area.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tour De Fat - Boise - 2013

What is the Tour de Fat?

When I announced to my bride that Mackie and I would be attending, and told her it was sponsored by the brewing company that produces Fat Tire Ale, she was surprised. She thought it was an event to celebrate getting fat people on bikes, so they can become less fat. (And I can totally understand how she could get that impression, when looking at me. She probably always wondered how Mackenzie could possibly fit in.)

So, what is it?

It's a celebration for New Belgium Brewing Company, no doubt! It is also a huge celebration of bicycles, and bicycle culture, and bicycle fun! It's also just another reason for people to get together and party.

As I write this (Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17), I'm confident the celebration is still going strong. The revelers are probably worked up to a frenzy of Pentecostal Bicycle Fervor by now. Or something like that. (-;

We attended the parade. And what a parade it was! The front of the staging area was very near Americana Boulevard, and there literally had to be thousands of riders! Much, much larger than I recall in years gone by. We arrived early enough to take a look-see at the gathered masses, but we walked for five minutes without ever getting close to the back of the line... I bet it was close to the Royal Boulevard entrance of the park... and I bet it stretched for at least a mile as it rolled leisurely down the parade route.



Mackie did an excellent job of riding - she kept pace (no problem - it moved SLOW!), she didn't cause anybody else discomfort, and she avoided a couple of slightly-close calls. We didn't costume up much, and we both wore helmets (probably half of the riders had helmets on - many festooned for the occasion).

Next year, we've decided she will gather a costume and we'll decorate her bike. And I intend to hook up the BOB trailer with rolling sound. (Yeah, as if that crowd needed a boost of enthusiasm.)

The announced that it was the 12th straight year of TDF in Boise. And based on attendance, I'm sure it's permanently established at this point.

I'm sure many of the participants are pretty casual about their cycling and serious about their partying... but that's OK.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No bike racks at new SLC high school

Corner Canyon High School, in Draper, Utah, is all set to receive its first student body, estimated to be 1,750 students. The 311,000 square foot school was built with "the future in mind," including "substantial wiring for student laptops and tablets, as well as Wi-Fi throughout the school."

The school's design "aims to improve indoor environmental quality," has natural light, etc. It features three gymnasiums, astroturf football field with seating for 4700 spectators, tennis courts, and a baseball/softball complex.

Laura Murdoch of Draper recently toured the shiny new $65 million school, and wrote an interesting letter to the Salt Lake Tribune. After noticing the 1,232-space parking lot, she asked where the bike racks were located, so her son could ride his bike. There aren't any bike racks. For you see, riding a bike and locking it could raise some legal issues. There isn't a school in the entire district that has a bike rack.


I don't understand that AT ALL! I can say with total confidence that those 1232 cars - being driven by teenagers - will create more legal issues over the life of that shiny new school than those same students could ever cause, if they were all riding bicycles.

Ms. Murdoch also cites the "obesity epidemic" that our society is facing, and the importance of teaching our kids "healthy living habits," instead of "encouraging them to hop in their mom’s SUV for the short ride to school." Amen to that!

And besides - if the administrators truly have the future in mind, they should realize that cars are less important to today's teenagers than those a generation ago. And as the cost of operating a car continues to increase, and kids continue to embrace new forms of technology and communication, miles-driven is almost certain to decrease.

There is no excuse for building a shiny new high school without bike racks!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tour de Fat - Aug 17 in Boise

If you live in the Boise area, mark your calendars! (Yeah! Like they haven't been marked since January 1st!) Tour de Fat is once again headed our way.

I've never really immersed myself in the Tour. In fact, my level of participation in the past has been to arrive a little early, make some observations, and then ride in the parade. But if you want to go bike-evangelical, you can stay for the performances by various offbeat entertainers, contests, and the highlight (for at least one lucky attendee), the "Car for Bike Trade." The lucky one agrees to surrender his car for a year, and use bicycle for all local travel. I believe it's the "honor system," and also that if an emergency arises the car can be used, provided the battery still has a charge. The reward? The bike! And typically it's a fancy custom cruiser-style machine.

Details of the event can be found HERE. (You need to enter your date of birth to proceed, but you kids can put in the month and day, and just "fake" the year. What the? Is it illegal for minors to view the website? If it features nudity or alcoholism or other adult themes, I haven't done enough clickin', apparently.)

Don't forget the SPF30! It'll probably be a sunny day.

What makes this event worthwhile, other than a few hours of Bicycle Bacchanalia? Proceeds from the event will benefit the SW Idaho Mountain Bike Alliance, the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance, and my favorite, the Boise Bike Project.

(On an unrelated note... apologies for not much new material as of late. I've just been kinda "in the groove," there's not much noteworthy or new to comment on, and I've got other irons in the fire. Also, I recently went on a 9-day, 2000+ mile motorcycle jaunt, covering Oregon, Washington, and N. Idaho... pretty sweeet! I'm racking up Quality Miles on the bicycle - hope you are too!)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Best urban bike paths

If you're making your vacation plans that include bicycle travel... USA Today has an interesting article (HERE) listing some of the "best urban bike paths across the USA."


From the article:
- Many on our list are important commuting arteries that give cyclists direct access to business districts while avoiding city traffic and making few street crossings.
- Almost all are paved, and those that aren't are well surfaced with finely crushed rock and graded for ease of riding.
- (Most importantly) a great bike path is separate from traffic for all or most of its length.
- They also happen to be exceptionally beautiful. All but three of these bike paths run alongside a body of water, and almost all are bounded by parkland, giving cyclists a decidedly non-urban respite from the stress of city riding.
- We also looked at other factors: Does the path offer exceptional views of, and access to, the city? Is it good for recreational riders and tourists? Does the city take pride in it?

I'd say that the Boise Valley Greenbelt qualifies in every category.


1104-Spring-1 .


2 - 4th of July - greenbelt east of Boise





Summer heat and rolling resistance

I've got an ongoing research project.  Perhaps it's destined to be a lifetime research project.  Let me explain.

As the days get hotter, and the pavement gets correspondingly hotter, how does it affect rolling resistance?

1) On the one hand, we've all seen water droplets "sizzle" across a hot skillet.  Do bicycle tires "sizzle" on the pavement surface in similar fashion?  Which would decrease rolling resistance, one would think.

2) Or, on the other hand, we've all seen how a cube of butter melts on a hot skillet, increasing the "contact patch" and becoming generally less wieldy.  (Surely melted butter has more "resistance" than a solid stick of butter!)

So far, my research has been based solely on personal observation.  And even after many years, the results are "inconclusive."  I will continue to observe.  Input from other "guinea pigs" would be welcomed!

(I'll be disappointed if I've spent so much time and effort, and somebody tells me "there's an app for that," available on your smart phone!)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are Boise parks getting bike-UNfriendly?

This is a letter I sent to Boise's Mayor, City Council, and Parks Department.

Dear City Administrators:


Below are two photos I recently snapped, along bike/pedestrian paths in our area.  One was taken in Boise – a city desiring to be known for being "bike friendly," and succeeding at that effort in many ways.  (What with our ACHD "Bronze Level" recognition by the Bike League, etc.)  The other was taken in Garden City – a community that has a reputation for being somewhat stand-offish and "unfriendly" when it comes to bicycles on public pathways.  See if you can guess which sign is in which city:

If you guessed that "bikes yield" in Boise and "no bicycles" in Garden City, you'd be WRONG!  There aren't many "no bicycles" signs in Boise, but I've seen them in two recent development projects – a disturbing trend?  The photo was taken in the new Williams Park, at the east end of town, and there are also "no bicycles" signs at the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve at the west end of town.  In fact, the Hyatt "rules" state, "Dogs, bicycles and all water activities are prohibited in the preserve."

Why the antipathy towards bicycles?  Is there something inherently destructive or undesirable about bicycles and their riders?  I can understand a rule prohibiting dogs – at least unleashed dogs.  And a prohibition on water "activities" in wetland habitat areas certainly makes sense.  But why a blanket prohibition on bicycles??

As a lifelong Boise resident and cycling advocate, I'm unhappy that cyclists are "presumed guilty with no opportunity to demonstrate innocence."

Are there some irresponsible cyclists that crowd our paths?  Absolutely!  But you don't prohibit all motorists from using the roads because a few of them drive drunk!  (And I might add, there are plenty of irresponsible pedestrians, roller-bladers, dog-walkers, etc. crowding the paths as well.)

On many days I ride through Williams Park, or ride past the Hyatt Reserve, without seeing another soul.  Why do you arbitrarily prohibit me from trying a different path?  I've never run over a duck or goose in my life!  (I ran over a cat once, with my bicycle on a city street, but it was clearly the cat's fault!)  If my granddaughter and I are riding the Greenbelt in Williams Park, and want to use the restroom or fill water bottles, we have to get off and walk our bikes down an often-empty sidewalk.  Makes NO sense!

Why not use the new facilities as an educational opportunity?  Frankly, I quite like those Garden City "Shared Path / Bikes Yield" signs – you should post them all up and down the Greenbelt!  Maybe with a "Speed Limit 15mph" in addition.

I do most of my riding on city streets.  On those occasions when I take to the Greenbelt, I sincerely try to follow the rules, and resent cyclists who either are unaware of the rules or have no intention of following them.  But don't penalize all of us on account of the scofflaws!

Steve Hulme
Lifelong Boise Citizen, Taxpayer, Voter


I got a very informative email response from an employee of the Parks & Recreation department, who was involved in the development of both facilities mentioned.

I was informed that both of those facilities had pre-existing conditions on them, that excluded bicycles and certain other user categories.   The city had no choice in the matter.  In the case of the Hyatt Reserve, "One of the main focuses was to minimize the disturbance to the water fowl and wildlife."  I take minor issue with that... I replied, "I have ongoing confusion about how a bicycle rolling along a path (at a reasonable speed) could possibly create any more "disturbance" to wildlife than an equivalent number of pedestrians crunching along the path."

But the response is encouraging - the City hasn't adopted a policy of excluding bicyclists from newly-developed facilities, overall.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Heat wave!

We are in the midst of an unprecedented hot-weather spell, all over the intermountain west. Boise is supposed to have 5 or 6 100-plus degree days, before it settles back to more normal highs in the low 90s.  (It's not too unusual to have a week of 100-plus days in the summer... but it's usually in late July or early August.)

Global warming?  If so, it's not MY fault!

Does the extra 10 degrees make a difference? I'd say it definitely makes some difference. Cooling systems are put to the test on such days. We have a pet bunny - she lays still against a bottle full of thawing water, taking shallow breaths. Cars overheat. Our swamp cooler has been running nonstop for 3 or 4 days; sometimes I lie awake at night, worrying about it stopping. (There are a couple weeks each summer where it can't quite keep up, but most of the time it's adequate and significantly cheaper to operate than refrigerated air conditioning.)

Likewise, the human cooling system is put through its paces. It's really quite the amazing system. Blood circulates to the skin surface where it flows through capillaries. When it gets hot we sweat, and the evaporation cools the skin's surface. As the cooled-down blood continues its journey, it brings merciful relief to other components that would otherwise overheat. If it's not keeping up, the heart pumps harder, trying to circulate the blood a but faster. It's critical to stay hydrated, because that evaporating water is a very critical component.

On Saturday mid-afternoon I went on an errand-running ride of 80 or 90 minutes. I drank my water and filled it and drank it again... was starting to get quite uncomfortable. I stopped at a city park, drenched my t-shirt, poured a bottle of cool water over my head, drank a bottle's worth of water and refilled it... it was amazing how much better I felt as I rode away!

(As long as I have plenty of water to pour into the radiator, I'm good at 100+ degrees. Death Valley is pushing up on 130 degrees... that might be a little TOO much, for more than a few minutes.)

Stay hydrated, my friends!